When I Met the Pope

The historic event of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI seems like as good a time as any to share with you the most regret-filled moment on our trip to Italy this summer. I haven’t said anything about it because it was once of those moments that I lost sleep over, for consecutive nights, and weeks and weeks later, I could *almost* laugh about with Paul and Fr. Tim. Almost.

We were at dinner on the feast of Corpus Christi. June 7, 2012. Me, Paul, Fr. Tim. Paul and I had spent the day sightseeing in Rome and visiting numerous churches. We didn’t have good luck that day, however, because two of the “major” churches were not accessible to us because the Holy Father would be there that evening to celebrate Corpus Christi. He was doing Benediction at one church and celebrating Mass at another.

That evening, as we were finishing up dinner, we heard helicopters overhead. As Fr. Tim is now a seasoned veteran of The Eternal City, he knew that would be people tracking the pope. We were having dinner near the Vatican and walked over to the back gate.

We waited a while, and it was fascinating. The crowd got bigger, but it was nice because while it was exciting, there wasn’t that crush of humanity like the audience (which was also amazing).

We stood there, watching and taking it all in. It was just one of those wonderful spans of time where the three of us stood and chatted and laughed. We talked to a few people nearby, but mostly just passed the time being together.

Then the security started lining the street. Not too many, and the best part was there was this woman, probably in her early 50s, who (as it turns out) is head of security for the Holy Father when he is out and about. And she was awesome. I want to be her when I grow up. So do Paul and Tim.

Slowly, you got that feeling that he was about to arrive. You could hear the helicopters getting closer, you could sense the energy from everyone, those in charge and those wanting to see. I was standing on the curb, right on the street. And just like that, flashing lights rounded the corner. Security, motorcycles, official Mercedes’ with official flags. I recorded it all with my phone (which takes amazing pictures and video). I recorded about five solid minutes.

Then you started hearing the clapping, and the cars really slowed down. There a few hundred feet up to my right, the Pope’s big black sedan rounded the corner. People started clapping and cheering. And I…

switched my phone from video to camera.

And this was the shot I got:

pope benedict

I was so close to Pope Benedict I could practically count the white hairs on his sacred head. And I threw it all away for the hopes of a clear shot with a camera phone of a car moving past me at seven miles per hour.

The minute the motorcade passed, I switched the phone back to video and got a depressing three seconds of the tail end of the Mercedes pulling through the gates and out of sight. Just like that, I had missed my chance for a frameworthy picture.

It wasn’t until later that Fr. Tim told me how I could have used an “image grab” to basically take a picture from the video I shot. How amazing that would have been!

security
This is an example of a screen grab from the video I shot, Awesome Security Woman.

Thinking back now, I guess I can (kind of) laugh about it. But I think what’s funnier is just how depressed I was about my poor judgement at the time. Seriously, could not laugh about it. Not at all.

Comments

  1. I wish I could have someone follow me around on special days to take pictures for me. I’m always torn between enjoying the moment and getting that “awesome shot.” Or even at home with adorable, hard to capture, always blurry kids!

  2. Rachel, your picture brought tears to my eyes! You will never forget that moment, and you DO have a picture of him! It’s not clear, it’s blurry, but it’s there, and you were there. You might call it abstract art! How many people get to be that close to the pope? EVER? You have that Kodak moment forever in your mind, your heart, your soul. God gave that present to you. I’m reminded of the time my oldest son, now 39, was 7. We were to go to the photographer for Christmas pictures that day when I went in to wake him up. He looked really odd, and I finally realized, HE HAD CUT HIS HAIR!!!! The scissors were on his nightstand, and wisps of hair all over. I was beside myself, and as a single parent then, didn’t know what to do but just cry all day. Before I cancelled the photography appointment, I called my mother in tears. She gave me the very best advice ever. “Go on to the appointment, take those pictures. They’ll be some of the most priceless pictures you’ll ever take of that boy.” I thought she was crazy at the time. But today, those pictures really are priceless, she was right. They’re great to pull out to show HIS kids, and to show him when they do something he thinks is the end of the world. What a magnificent thing to see the pope up close. God must love you very much.

  3. Good Morning, Rachel! I would say you have a very good photo of the Pope in your mind, perhaps not one good enough to share with the rest of us, but certainly a clear photo of a great moment in your life. A normal photograph can get lost amongst many others, but the photo in your mind is yours to enjoy forever.

    Be well!
    Mary Ann

  4. Rachel, this brought a very dear memory for me. My husband and I had booked a weekend in Rome as an anniversary trip, before the trip Pope John Paul II had died and Pope Benedict was elected, and we set off to Rome. On our first day, we were just wandering around, getting our bearings when we noticed a Church with a large crowd of people outside, and some people wandering in. Nobody appeared to be showing tickets to get into the Church so I suggested to my hubbie that we “see what was going on” and were very surprised to be allowed into the Church, there was a barrier at the back of the church, the seating was full, and people were praying the rosary, either in Italian or Latin, I couldn’t tell. Somebody asked an English speaking priest what was going on and he said that Pope Benedict was coming to offer some flowers to Our Lady, at that point my husband knew that nothing would get me out of there. Two hours later, the gentleman manning the barrier beckoned to us and let us through, he had just seen two seats available so we entered and took our seats right near the central aisle of the Church, ten minutes after that Pope Benedict entered into the Church, went down to the Lady Chapel, came out, stood on a stool and gave everybody a blessing, then processed out of the Church again. Rachel, we were less than six feet away from him, we had such a close view and I am sure he looked directly at me and smiled. It didn’t occur to me until the next day that I should have been taking photographs, but the memory will stay with me for ever. I stood there with tears running down my face until we left the Church.

  5. You are so… human. As one of my college professors used to say, “Stop should-ing on yourself.” 🙂 You are so lucky to have been in his presence. How many can say that?

  6. That must be, and have been, tough. It’s not like it is for us in Europe. You won’t be over here again soon (but if you are let us know!) I imagine you’ve already spoken to Our Lord about it (maybe in strong terms!) but it might just be the kind of sacrifice you could offer up from a distance for Benedict. God Bless.